Our Employees Honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

By Alison Gala, Focus: HOPE Communications Volunteer 

“There is a need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said during his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in 1964. “Man must evolve for all human conflict, a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”

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This mission is one we hold close. The 1967 Detroit Race Riot was one of the most violent urban revolts of the 20th century. Rioters smashed windows and looted stores. Fires spread rapidly and raged out of control, covering 12 square miles. Gunshots echoed through the streets. The violence lasted an estimated five days and nights. Forty-three people were killed. Over 1,000 people were injured and over 7,000 were arrested. The overall property damage totaled about $32 million.

Several important political, economic and social factors triggered the unrest. Key factors included police brutality, lack of affordable housing, segregated schools, wealth disparity and demographic changes. The outlook was bleak.

“Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate,” MLK wrote in his book in 1968. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Father William Cunningham founded Focus: HOPE in 1968 in response to the Detroit Race Riot the year before. Cunningham was a visionary leader and civil rights activist who marched alongside MLK in Selma, Alabama after “Bloody Sunday”. In the beginning, we were a series of volunteer  projects aimed at restoring the Detroit community. Eventually, with assistance from Eleanor Josaitis, Cunningham’s project turned into the multi-million dollar nonprofit that we are today.

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Focus: HOPE founder, Father William Cunningham
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Focus: HOPE, co-founder Eleanor Josaitis preaching to a crowd on civil rights issues

Our logic was simple: to minimize violence, increase opportunities. Since then, we have worked to provide career training, education, advocacy and support to empower individuals to overcome racism, poverty and injustice in a meaningful way.

On MLK Day, 220 of our employees celebrated the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by volunteering at organizations like the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, Bottomless Toy Chest, Boys & Girls Club, Forgotten Harvest, Cass Community Social Services, Humble Design, Mariners Inn, St. Vincent DePaul, Detroit Rescue Mission and Arts & Scraps. Together, we provided more than 560 hours of service to the metro Detroit community.

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“It was really special to see all of Focus: HOPE donate their MLK Day to serve others in our community,” said Jennifer Presley, Event & Cause Marketing Manager, Focus: HOPE. “It was an amazing MLK Day and was a reminder as to what MLK Day should really be all about.”

As an organization, we have laid a foundation for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. We have given people the tools they need to rise, and have provided what was so desperately needed all along: hope.

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Op Ed post Election November 17, 2016

by Focus: HOPE CEO, Jason Lee

Regardless of our individual political affiliations, we can all agree that the rhetoric of the 2016 Presidential Election has deeply polarized this country in ways not seen since the 1960’s. The spirit of America has been wounded by an exceptionally divisive approach to the political process – a process that many in this country fought for and some even gave their lives to protect.

We are the United States of America…the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. Is our conduct with respect to one another reflective of these words that we sing so often at sporting events and school assemblies? Are our children learning the values of respect, racial tolerance, religious freedom, civil political discourse and non-violent protest?

Focus: HOPE was founded as a solution to the institutional and racial ills that plagued Detroit and our nation. We stand for equal justice and opportunity for all, from every race, creed, color, sexual orientation and religious doctrine. We believe in the beauty and dignity of each person, and the power of people working together to make positive change.   We believe in the United States of America, and in its power to overcome the great evils of racism, poverty and injustice.  Join us in healing the soul of this great country by spreading the message of good will, peace and understanding. Only by Standing Together will we Make America Great.

Jason D. Lee, CEO Focus: HOPE

Our Business Village is Now Open!

Offering affordable and local resources for entrepreneurs & start-ups in Detroit

Meet Harriette Brown. A wife, a mother, a lover of food and Chef Bee of Sisters on a Roll Mobile Café & Catering.

“The past 27 years have been a flavor filled journey, as I see food as both an art form & a universal gift to be shared by all,” Said Harriette Brown. “It is my privilege to share with you food prepared from the heart with the soul in mind, bringing you the flavor of love one bite at a time.”

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Harriette Brown has a background in outreach ministry and has always lived her life helping others. Harriette Brown has a passion for  helping people in her community, and entrepreneurship.

“I never thought that I’d have my own business,” said Harriette Brown. “Helping others is my life long dream, having this business allows me to give more back.”

Before successfully launching Sister’s on a Roll, Mobile Cafe & Catering, Harriette Brown was wondering how she could turn her passion into a reality. How did she go from, I wish I could, to I am? Prosperous classes at Focus: HOPE.

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ProsperUS Detroit is a place-based economic development strategy designed to empower low and moderate income, immigrant and minority individuals. They have long-teamed up with us, Focus: HOPE, to aid in our community revitalization efforts that include developing a comprehensive program of supports for cultivating our HOPE Village business community. This consists of a series of training, workshops, a co-working space and technical assistance to entrepreneurs and small business owners. Detroit has always been strong, but lately, the development and activity it is seeing is in hyper speed with Detroit becoming a top destination for entrepreneurs, start-ups and small businesses.

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Photo courtesy of Sasaki Associates via Huffington Post

Detroit is built strong, but the statistical inner-city issues are still there. One neighborhood that we focus on, HOPE Village, which immediately surrounds our campus, has close to 50% of its residents living below the poverty line.  HOPE Village is part of our HOPE Village Initiative whose goal is by the year 2031, 100% of HOPE Village residents will be educationally well prepared, economically self-sufficient and living in a safe and supportive environment.

So how did Harriette Brown make her dreams a reality with the help of Focus: HOPE & ProsperUs Detroit? A few years ago, she agreed to pick up a friend from Focus: HOPE’s ProsperUs class. As she was waiting for the class to end, Focus: HOPE mentor and Manager of Neighborhood and Economic Revitalization, HOPE Village Initiative, Judith Williams, urged her to stay for the last hour to see if she would be interested in attending an upcoming session. Harriet Brown liked what she took away from the last hour of the workshop and signed up for the next session that involved entrepreneurship training programs and support services with the thought, “maybe this could really work” and the drive to make her dream a reality.

Fast forward a few years to October 20th, 2016, the Grand Opening of our Business Village, and Harriette Brown, from Sisters on a Roll Mobile Catering & Services, was our caterer; and a delicious one at that.

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Harriette Brown, Sisters on a Roll Mobile Catering & Services 

“Judith Williams has been encouraging,  supportive and inspirational to me by helping me pursue my dreams,” said Harriette Brown. “I’m forever grateful to
Focus: HOPE and ProsperUS for propelling me forward in making my dreams a reality.”

Our Business Village is officially open! The Business Village is an office space that allows entrepreneurs, bloggers, small businesses, start-ups and more, to rent out office space at an affordable price in collaboration with ProsperUs Detroit. Our Business Village offers local, neighborhood residents affordable space that is nearby, and the resources and help that are essential in successfully launching small businesses, start-ups, websites and more. We want to make sure that we are helping the people who grew up in Detroit, have lived in Detroit and are not leaving Detroit and help them reach their full potential.

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Jason Lee, CEO, Focus: HOPE; Judith Williams, Manager, Neighborhood and Economic Revitalization, HOPE Village Initiative; Elaine Gardner, Assistant, Focus: HOPE; Juanita Maxwell, Assistant, Focus: HOPE  

When members purchase a plan, they get office space, a conference room available for meetings and brainstorm sessions, laptop rentals, flash drives and cabinet space. We also offer drop-in rates and a la carte items for one time uses.

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Business Village Conference Room 

Focus: HOPE mentors are available to help with marketing needs, research, and finding the correct resources that fit your goals and plans.

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Our Business Village is in collaboration with ProsperUs Detroit, which will continue to offer entrepreneur classes and workshops to our Business Village members that aid in our goal of developing a comprehensive program of supports for cultivating Focus: HOPE’s, HOPE Village business community.

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Krista Contreras and Joanna Dueweke, ProsperUs Detroit 

“The whole idea of co-working is to bring bright, creative people together and let the ideas collide.” Said Judith Williams, Manager, Neighborhood and Economic Revitalization, HOPE Village Initiative.

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JP Morgan Chase colleagues attending our grand opening 

For more information on our Business Village, please contact Judith Williams at 313-494-4351 or businessvillage@focushope.edu.